Pets & Animals

Tampa police photo shows manatee standing watch over stranded dog 'like an angel'

People are taking inspiration from a photo of a lost dog, snapped moments before his rescue from a Florida river, that also reveals an underwater companion who may have kept the scared pooch company until help arrived.

The photograph caught 8-month-old White Dog waiting patiently for rescuers to pull him from Tampa’s Hillsborough River. A passerby had noticed the pup trying to scale a massive concrete seawall and called the police for help, department spokeswoman Andrea Davis said Thursday. 

While rescue crews went to get a ladder, one officer snapped a picture that not only captured White Dog, but a manatee waiting right behind him.

The police department posted the photo on their Facebook page as an example of “the kindness between animals.”

Facebook users agreed. 

"Kinda looks like an angel!" wrote Karen Farjeat about the photo.

"If people were more like animals it would be a better world," Mary Dwyer Lagerhausen said. 

Bill Hamilton Sr. suggested the manatee was actually protecting the dog: "For those of you that don't know, there was probably an alligator in the area and he or she was standing by protecting the dog."

Manatees are curious by nature, and this one may have been attracted by the dog’s whimpering as he tried to find a way out of the river, Davis said. It’s also possible the commotion made by the rescue crew and curious onlookers could have attracted the manatee's attention.

Whatever the reason, the photo has proved to be an inspiration for many, she said.

“This is the kind of image that gives people hope and reminds them there is kindness out there. It's something that can easily make you smile, ” she told “I think we want to believe that the manatee was the guardian angel. I’m not sure that we’ll ever know, but you hear so many bad things, it’s good to see an image like this.”

Davis said the area where the dog was rescued is a “no wake zone” where boats are restricted because of the numerous manatees in the area. She also hoped to quell some of the suggestions people have made on social media by clarifying that the manatee did not intend any harm to its visitor.

“They’re vegetarian. They do not eat dogs,” she said.

As for the pup, White Dog was reunited with his owner, Ronesha Keaton, who said the dog escaped from her yard.

“He bit through the whole back of the fence,” she told Tampa's WFTS-TV. She then noticed the commotion across the street and realized it was an effort to pull her pet from the water.

Davis said police don’t know how long the dog had been stranded in the river, but several residents in the area told police they heard noises throughout the night, but couldn't place where they were coming from. 

White Dog was covered in bug bites and had bloody paws, but was otherwise fine.